By Walter Whitfield
Workplace wellness can be a great addition to an employer’s benefits package. As discussed in our article “An Introduction to Workplace Wellness,” an athletic department’s employees are expected to endure a tough work schedule that likely affects an individual’s health. Busy employees often display bad habits that sometimes manifest into poor health outcomes. Thus, workplace wellness programs can be beneficial to an organization in many ways.
1) Control Health Care Costs
Most companies add workplace wellness to control health care costs. Universities are feeling the effects of rising costs as many presidents have publicly stated. According to the Rand Corporation’s research brief “Do Workplace Wellness Programs Save Employer’s Money?”, disease and lifestyle management programs showed a positive return on investment (ROI). Disease management programs tackling heart disease and diabetes seen an ROI of $3.80. Lifestyle management programs addressing long-term risks like poor nutrition and physical inactivity seen an ROI of $0.50. To maximize potential, the design of a program should use answers from an employer and employee needs analysis and employee wellness assessments. This vital information will ensure a program targets high-risk health issues, and limits funds on matters that yield little return.
2) Reduce Worker’s Compensation, or Disability-Related Costs
As with health care costs, work-related injuries are very expensive as well. Musculoskeletal disorders cost U.S. employers billions of dollars annually. An ergonomic program can help reduce job stressors on the human body. University employees, like other industries, do job tasks that require repetitive motions, manual handling, or unnatural body positions. A sports information director may deal with prolonged sitting in front a computer. Game day management may deal with placing barricades around the complex to secure parking areas. Athletic trainers may deal with taping football players for hours. Each task is different but risky. It is important that employers and employees understand the inherent physical risks of their job and how behavior affects health.
3) Builds Healthy Habits
Workplace wellness programs usually offer several health care services. Typically, services will include health coaching around nutritional, physical activity, sleep, and hydration. They serve the purpose of improving an employee’s basic health skills. Some programs help employees in the areas of production, stress reduction, and personal development. These areas include time management, relaxation skills, hobby development, and wealth management. Although these skills may seem slightly removed from wellness, skill development in these areas can be instrumental in improving one’s well-being. Healthy habits are not limited to eating well and exercise.
4) Enhanced Recruitment and Retention of Employees
Generally, recruitment and retention are words pertaining to student-athletes or to the re-signing of a coach. Every company wants to attract and keep the best employees possible. Universities are no different. Workplace wellness, done right, can be a great addition to an employer’s benefits package. A worthy candidate will always look for intangibles that are available to help them succeed at their job, just as a high school recruit wants great facilities or cool gear. The same is true for retaining a wanted athletic trainer or compliance officer. When your athletics are doing well, other universities will poach your talent. Expanding your benefits package can only help when attempting to recruit or retain top talent.
In conclusion, it is important to note that workplace wellness is a long-term strategy. As with any plan, goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed-based. Once an organization knows where its start and finish lie, it’s all about execution.
Walter Whitfield is an employee wellness consultant and founder of Lavoro Workplace Wellness where he helps businesses improve their workplace through employee wellness strategies. He has worked with corporations like Chevron, BP, and Seadrill. Walter is a former college athlete for Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns where he competed in cross country and track, winning Sunbelt conference titles in the 3k Steeplechase and 5k. He is married, has 3 kids, and loves all things New Orleans Saints and Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns.
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